Since 2013, young leaders and adult allies from across fourteen national organizations have been exploring a new way forward for Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people to realize a changed relationship. The last year and a half have been crucial in building our shared capacity as young people to lead dialogue in ways that honour its complexity, and respect the vision of 4Rs to support the change that Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth want to see.
Over time we have witnessed our vision come to life and lessons are emerging around what might be needed in a shared experience for young people to engage in dialogue that furthers respect, reciprocity, reconciliation, and relevance. We hope that in inviting you to share in our learning you will feel both challenged and inspired to contribute to the movement in your own way.
“I seek to build our nations like the trees. Strong, powerful, limitless roots that work together and intersect and strengthen underground, so on the surface we can be strong, tall and provide life for the rest of society.”
– Jordan Tabobondung, Wasauksing First Nation, 4Rs Training June 2015
In 2013 during the G8 summit in Toronto, a group of leaders from the youth-serving community had a critical conversation. They asked themselves and each other, if we left our logos and egos at the door, what would be the change we would want to see in the country? They all agreed that they could do more to engage Indigenous young people. They agreed that by working together, they could support real change.
What emerged was the beginning of the 4Rs’ partner coalition with leadership from national Aboriginal organizations brought to the table for their much needed expertise and networks. From there, a planning committee was formed.
At the first face-to-face meeting of the planning committee in Rama First Nation Territory in August 2013, it became obvious that Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people face common challenges of identity. The diversity of stories and experiences of the youth-led planning committee emerged as a unifying theme that helped shape the basis for the beginnings of a national movement.
From here the 4Rs vision began to surface: through strength in our identity, and unity in our diversity, together we will create a country where Indigenous youth can all live, thrive and celebrate . . .
From the planning committee came a larger summit in Banff from October 25-27, 2013, with about 25 youth representatives in addition to CEOs or senior staff from the fourteen partner organizations. We adopted the name 4Rs ≈ For Ours and discussed common values that were needed for a national youth initiative centering a youth-to-youth dialogue around healing and reconciliation.
Respect, Reciprocity, Reconciliation and Relevance
While the 4Rs is not an initiative of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the work of the TRC was seen as an important springboard for the 4Rs Youth Movement and we felt a certain sense of responsibility for its legacy. The group agreed to connect the next 4Rs meeting to the final National Event of the TRC held in Edmonton in March 2014.
From March 27-28, 2014, nearly 135 young leaders and adult allies from across the 4Rs partner organizations met at the Shaw Convention centre in Edmonton, during the TRC’s National Event, to expand and deepen the 4Rs youth to youth dialogue and to continue planning the movement.
The event provided an opportunity for the group to offer its own Expression of Reconciliation at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final National Event.
With voices from the movement, a great foundation of writing support from Diana Wickham and Jess Bolduc, the 4Rs Strategic Plan began to take shape. Using four strategic pillars to guide us: Platform, Tools, Leadership, and Capacity, the plan laid out the collective vision for the movement, with clear goals leading to 2017.
The plan was informed by our experiences to date, feedback from young leaders and allies, and research on Indigenous-Settler relations completed by Waterloo GradSI students Robin Sutherland, Amara Possian, Heather Laird, Laurel Currie, Johanna Hove, Cloe Nicholls and Marc-Etienne Brunet.
With a plan in place, a vision to guide us, and goals to hold us accountable, we officially launched in January of 2015. This year of exploring the possibilities and challenges within this plan has been made possible through support from the JW McConnell Family Foundation, Inspirit Foundation, Counseling Foundation of Canada, and Community Foundations of Canada.
Throughout 2015, a framework for cross-cultural dialogue has been developed and tested through experiential trainings and gatherings in different parts of the country. We are now at critical point in our learning, and we are excited to share what comes next.
4Rs Founding Partners
The endorsement of 4Rs by five National Aboriginal Organizations, together with five National Youth Serving organizations, and four supporting Foundations is unprecedented and brings with it national scope and a built in network of young people ready to be activated by 4Rs at the grassroots level.
This is the beginning of our story; will you help us write what comes next?